Losing her younger brother to cancer in 2005 inspired Whitney Payne to seek a career as a pediatric oncology nurse practitioner.

“Serving in this capacity and sharing my experiences is a great way to honor my brother and give back to the community who helped him so much,” Payne said.

Payne is on her way to fulfilling her dream now that she and seven other Pikes Peak region women have received a total of $17,500 in scholarships for their involvement in the educational advancement of women. The Association of American University Women Colorado Springs Branch recognized the 2021-22 scholarship recipients during a Sept. 18 Welcome Coffee at Broadmoor Community Church.

In addition to Payne, AAUW recipients Kayla Nocon, Juanita Rose Quengua, Victoria Scott and Ana Villazon each received $2,000; while $2,500 went to Addie Mae Memorial Scholarship recipients Anna Duerst, Leah Murphy and Avalon Vance. The branch raised the funds for the scholarships thirough its holiday raffle, online auction and private donors.

AAUW members Paula and David Munger created the AMM Scholarship in memory of their great niece who died in September 2019 at age 5, said Scholarship Chair Mo Sigler.

“The intent of the memorial was to offer scholarships for 2020-2021. When Addie Mae’s family participated in our September 2020 Zoom Welcome Meeting, they were so moved by the scholarship recipients, they contributed more funding for 2021-2022 scholarships,” Sigler said of the program that concludes this year.

Sigler introduced second-year AAUW scholarship recipient and new member Victoria Scott who shared her story of domestic abuse. Scott, who this fall will graduate from Pikes Peak Community College with an associate’s degree in business administration, said, “Through the AAUW’s empowerment workshop, I learned that it is OK to say ‘No.’”

A second-year AMM Scholarship recipient, Duerst last fall graduated from PPCC with a 4.0 GPA and associate’s degree in psychology. Presently, she pursuing a bachelor’s in human services at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. “I thank the Addie Mae family and donors who believe in me and my dream,” Duerst said.

Nocon became involved in the Colorado Springs Firefighter Explorer program while still in high school. Nocon holds an associate degree in Fire Science from PPCC and is pursuing a bachelor’s in emergency service administration. “I want to thank you for this amazing opportunity. It is a privilege and honor,” Nocon said.

Philippine born-and-raised Quengua hopes to become a Certified Public Accountant and assist others to prosper financially. She holds a 4.0 GPA at PPCC and plans to pursue a bachelor’s in accounting at UCCS. “I thank the AAUW for everything they have provided me,” Quengua said.

Vance earned an associate’s degree from PPCC’s Inclusive Elementary Education program prior to graduating from high school this year. Presently, she is pursuing the Teacher Education program at UCCS. “I thank the AAUW, as they have been very helpful in my career goals,” Vance said.

The mother of six children, Villazon holds an associate’s degree from PPCC, is pursuing a bachelor’s in human services at UCCS and plans to earn a master’s in counseling. “I see great things coming my way, and I thank you for believing in me” Villazon said.

Murphy, who was unable to attend the event, holds five teaching certificates, has a 4.0 GPA and Phi Theta Kappa Honorary Society membership from PPCC where she is pursuing an associate’s degree.

The event concluded with 2021-22 President Pip Bodkin telling recipients, “We are proud of you and expect great things.”

The event was the first AAUW in-person event since COVID-19 struck more than a year ago, according to Community Outreach President Kathryn Olson. COVID-19 inspired the AAUW to combine its scholarships presentation with its Welcome Coffee meeting.

“AAUW members have moved to be closer to family members (and) 50% of our interest groups went on hiatus because of close interaction (with) bridge, small book clubs. ZOOM became our friend,” Olson said.

The Colorado Springs branch of AAUW is a 501©(3) organization that advances equity for females through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research.

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